Amber Hall hero

6,500km leap of faith

I’m originally from the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, which is a small British overseas territory. Having studied IGCSEs and A levels at school, I was always committed to continuing with the British curriculum and study at university in the UK.

I had never been to the UK, and was unable to attend an open day, so I had to base my choice on researching university websites and take a leap of faith with my application. I searched for universities in the south coast of England that were offering creative courses. A strong sense of community was important. I remember looking into the Freshers’ events that universities were running – I wanted to feel confident that I would settle into a new country and be welcomed from the start.

I wouldn’t say I had strict criteria, but I definitely had to be by the sea. I wanted to be somewhere that reminded me of home.

View of the Hoe and tinside

I’ve always wanted to teach art

Despite having a clear vision of a future career, I was initially unsure how to get there – whether to dive straight into an education degree specialising in art, or to study an art course first. I always thought it was important to have experience and knowledge of many different kinds of artistic practice and theories. I decided it was important to start my career with an art degree and apply for the fine art course at Plymouth.

My experience of art education at school involved attending classes with only two students – one of them was me

The resources weren’t great at school and I only really touched on acrylic and watercolour painting techniques. I never had the chance to explore things like sculpture or printing. These gaps in my school education motivated me to learn a broad range of technical skills and methods.

The course will challenge your perceptions

During my A levels, I was taught to look at more traditional forms of art. In hindsight, this gave me a narrow view of what I thought art was. I’m really glad my perceptions were challenged early on in the course because it has encouraged me to always try something new, something different.

Amber Hall studio pano1
Amber Hall studio pano2
Amber Hall studio pano3

Fine art stigma

The title of my course is BA (Hons) Fine Art, which might make you think of more traditional art forms such as drawing and painting. However, the course also stimulates a contemporary approach where you are encouraged to not shy away from modern technologies and techniques.

You will have access to tutors and technicians who are specialists in traditional methods, and you will be encouraged to develop your practice and be of the mindset to always try something new. I was quite firmly set on being a painter, but the tutors’ different critical viewpoints pushed me to think outside a narrow perspective and have subsequently improved my skills as an artist.

Amber Hall
Amber Hall
Amber Hall

Developing practice

The most exciting thing I have done as part of the course has been print and photography. I already had an interest in photography as a hobby and even looked at applying for a photography course when applying to UCAS but changed my mind.

One of my projects was around the theme of ‘voyeurism’ and I took photographs in that style. I also experimented with print during the project, exploring Xerox printing as a method of making an image look gritty and like surveillance footage.

My current interest is in non-traditional generative art forms that might use coding or other systems, looking at what can be created without the use of hands.

Amber Hall Work 1
Amber hall
Amber Hall work 3

Drawing on expertise

The tutors on the course are really nice and everyone on the course has been friendly. I think they have to be, so you feel comfortable enough to approach them when you feel confused. Each tutor has different experience and practices, and I feel we benefit them as much as they benefit us.

We are continually researching what is happening now, and they have a wealth of historical and contemporary knowledge. Lecturers have always gone out of their way to help me and I have been heavily influenced by my personal tutor, who is well suited to help me with my current projects.

amber hall
Amber Hall workspace 4
Amber Hall

Creative connections

The course benefits from a close relationship with the Arts Institute and the Plymouth Arts Centre which has in the past provided voluntary internships to students and placement opportunities. They provide talks by artists, performances and other things that can aid learning for students. You just have to be proactive about taking the opportunities when they arise.

There are great networking opportunities in Plymouth and many things to get involved in. It feels like everyone knows everyone in Plymouth. You’re more likely to showcase your work at an early stage, or even sell work, as a university student. Even places like the Theatre Royal have opportunities for people to get into stage production. I will miss the scene when I leave.

There have been opportunities to showcase work at the Plymouth Art Weekender. There were so many jobs advertised that we could get involved with and we were encouraged to take posts that would be of benefit to our work or CV. At the time, I wasn’t confident enough to really put myself out there as I wasn’t sure about where my art is set, but there are definitely opportunities available if you can take them up. I did help out with the Contemporary Open last summer. I helped the setup and installation of an artist’s work, which gave me invaluable hands-on curatorial experience.

Amber hall
Amber hall
Amber hall

Balancing the books on a budget

I’m not entitled to student loans as I haven’t lived in the UK for the three years necessary to get funding. I’m in a grey area where I’m not entitled to international funding either due to my passport.

If I hadn’t been able to work for the University’s accommodation team, I would have probably had to leave university as I wouldn’t have been able to afford to live here.

I took a gap year before I came to university and worked in an art gallery so I could save which has helped to cover my accommodation costs. At times it has been difficult to manage my studies alongside work (Hall Volunteer, Student Ambassador and working in a nightclub) but I think I’ve found a balance that works for me.

I feel like a big sister to the new students in halls

As part of my role with the University’s accommodation team, our aim is to make university life as easy for new students as possible, particularly if they ever feel homesick or down. We can also help with guidance on jobs, anything really. If a student needs help, then we will find a way to help them. A big part of our role is safeguarding and signposting students to the relevant departments in the University who are equipped to help.

Master of my own future

We undertook placements in our second year and I had wanted to do mine in an art college, but it didn’t work out. Instead, I undertook my placement in a primary school which put things into perspective and made me realise I want to teach older students that already have a passion for the arts.

I’ve decided I want to be a university lecturer. My future plans involve doing a masters degree, followed by a PhD. 

I have started to look at different courses for my masters and have realised in order to be a lecturer you must be specialised in terms of what you’re researching.

Amber Hall print name